Passion, mystery and laughs

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Imogen Sage as Mrs de Winter Number Two having a horizontal exchange of views with her new husband Maxim played by Tristan Sturrock.

Rebecca

Malvern Theatres

****

LAST night I dreamt of Manderley, a Manderley with a very Cornish feel, with charismatic comical servants and fisherman singing atmospheric songs.

This is not my imagination, this is the Manderley according to Kneehigh Theatre Company in its innovative and compelling version of Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca - A study in jealousy.

It carries the usual Kneehigh tell-tale signs of humour, live music, song and puppetry plus the company's ability to add a spark of uniqueness to well-known classics.

It's the essence of Rebecca but with a twist.

Based in Truro, the company has brought a piece of Cornwall with it on tour. You can practically smell the sea that Du Maurier put at the centre of her infamous thrilling brief story.

The action takes place on a fantastic set. It merges the grandeur of Manderley house with the rocks of the rugged Cornish coastline. Amid the rocks, fishermen play haunting melodies on violins and sing shanties.

Here we find widower Maxim de Winter (Tristan Sturrock, recently of Poldark), who has married a shy, young impressionable woman (Imogen Sage) just a year after his first wife's death to the surprise of his staff and haughty relatives.

Hearing tales of the beautiful first wife, Rebecca, from grim housekeeper Mrs Danvers (Rebecca’s biggest fan) the new Mrs de Winter is paralysed with self-doubt and jealousy, which causes friction in her new marriage.

What's new about this production is that while it gives a nod to the famous Alfred Hitchcock film, it adds a fresh dimension of humour and greater emphasis to characters on the sidelines.

Maxim's sister Beatrice and brother-in-law Giles are a hoot thanks to actors Lizzie Winkler and Andy Williams.

They are the Hooray Henry and Henrietta of the piece with lashings of whiskey and soda. Meanwhile, the servants are a charming bunch, particularly the young petite Welsh manservant Ben, who loves everyone and races to answer the telephone so he can tell intimate details of his mother's menopausal problems.

Ben is played with wonderful comic timing by Katy Owen and apparently hers is the only role allowed to ad lib the lines each night.

Director Emma Rice has added a few new interpretations too. The stark change in behaviour of the new Mrs de Winter after she has discovers the truth is more sinister than Mrs Danvers. Emily Raymond plays the housekeeper more as a loyal aunt than the psychopathic obsessive in the film.

All in all, it's a clever reworked version of Rebecca with a distinctive Cornish flavour that Du Maurier's own son said his mother would have enjoyed. To 09-05-15.

Alison Brinkworth.

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